Canon’s First SLR: The Orginal Canonflex

The Original Canonflex - 1959

The PHSNE warehouse team recently discovered an original 1959 Canonflex (https://global.canon/en/c-museum/product/film38.html) —minus its lens. While members are searching for a lens that would complete the camera, a substitute is in place temporarily.

Acknowledging its relatively brief run, Cameraquest’s Stephen Gandy noted: “Nice camera, but blown away by the Nikon F.”  Both were introduced in March of 1959. But while the original Canonflex was discontinued after just five months (about 17,000 were produced), the Nikon F continued in production until 1974, by which time about 862,000 were made. (https://www.cameraquest.com/canonflx.htm).

The Canonflex is a large, nicely finished camera with an odd bottom lever film advance. This was a big Canon selling point, claiming that the 130 degree bottom lever advance was faster than the top mounted lever. Up to 3 frames per second were claimed possible. Two versions of an optional external meter were available. The first meter and the camera we have at the warehouse only went to 1/1000 of a second. After the short production run, the next version of the camera—the Canonflex R 2000—had a top shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second and Canon released an updated version of the meter to match it. The R 2000 had the shortest production run: 8,800 according to Cameraquest.

Camera-wiki referred to original features that included the aforementioned base mounted, flat-tipped, folding 130 degree advance lever for the left-hand thumb; and a removable finder-prism, which slides securely home when mounted. A small black button just next to it on the top releases it for easy removal. A further notable feature is the single shutter speed dial with equally spaced and clearly marked speed settings running from 1 through 1000, and X as well as B-T settings. The shutter dial is prepared for taking the accessory clip-on exposure meter, hence the equally spaced stops and the cleverly scalloped edge hiding a coupling. (http://camerawiki.org/wiki/Canonflex).

The Canonflex also introduced a high-quality, breechlock lens mount; the lens has a ring on the lens which mates securely to the external bayonet lugs on the camera body. The breechlock mount was rugged, simple, and could be continuously tightened, unlike traditional bayonet mounts which can wear, work loose, get jammed, and become deformed. The Canon camera body external bayonet mount remained unchanged through the R, FL, and FD lens systems. The camera used Super-Canomatic lenses which had a fast, fully-automatic diaphragm. The full list of the Canonflex ‘R’ lenses is here.

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To all participants in the 2022 Photographica 89

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